Thursday, April 10, 2014

a new low

 photo IMG_1299_zps76d8ab1f.jpg

You don’t want to know about this. I assure you, you really do not. I picture this blog post as a written version of the scene in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (anything with John C. Reilly is amazing. Anything) when he happens upon his friends doing drugs in the bathroom. As they list every single appealing thing about the drugs in question, they frame the statement with ‘you don’t want this.’ Only in this particular scene you are sweet, young, naïve Dewey and I am a bad, bad influence. Just as the endless winter breaks, when you can almost feel the sunshine on your pale, soft, winter body, as you commit yourself to a healthy eating and fitness plan to prepare for summer’s entry, here I come along, like the devil himself, with a snack so delicious it’s completely shameful indeed. I’m telling you: you don’t want this, man.

 photo IMG_1282_zps47456536.jpg photo IMG_1284_zps07a20745.jpg

A close friend’s sister emailed me the other day. The subject line was “Marinated Sheeps Feta” the email text was brief: “you introduced me to this a long time ago at the fruit center, I'm just wondering, is it normal to scoop it up and eat it with cape cod potato chips? I think I have hit a new low...” The fact that a friend I haven’t seen in quite some time feels comfortable enough with me to email me of her secret snacking habits reminds me, I’ve been in this game for years. Pimping snacks so shameful you feel the need to confess. I’m like the Avon Barksdale of appetizers and I truly can’t be trusted.

 photo IMG_1286_zpsf25f7429.jpg

But the cycle works both ways you see. Not only did she shed light on her addiction, but she also placed this sweet, sweet nectar right smack dab on my radar as well. Just as I can almost feel the sunshine on my translucent, dimpled upper arms, here I find myself again, with a jar full of bad news marinating in my fridge. If we’re going down the wrong path, at least we have each other.

 photo IMG_1288_zpsd72bae85.jpg

MARINATED FETA with GARLIC, ROSEMARY and PINK PEPPERCORNS

4-5 oz. piece feta cheese*
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1 sprig rosemary, snipped into 2 or 3 pieces
2 teaspoons pink peppercorns (or 1 tsp. black)**
¾ - 1 cup good quality olive oil

*if you can find it at the right price, sheep’s milk feta is the creamiest and takes best to marinating; however, I made this batch just using the basic block feta my store sells by the pound. A good rule of thumb is, the better the feta, the better this will be. But I’m quite sure you’ll enjoy it any old way.**I use pink peppercorns because I think they are a) pretty and b) tasty and mild. But you can use plain black peppercorns here; they are just a bit spicier, so I would use less.

 photo IMG_1291_zpsa2ed3671.jpg

This here snack was something we originally carried from an Australian cheese maker at my store. And it was so good I pretty much had to never buy it ever. Which was fine and not that hard to do because it was like, 8 bucks a container and so popular it was often out of stock. Then, the evil geniuses in our gourmet department decided to start making their own. And now not only is it always in supply, but it is often available to me in a giant, fragrant, delicious tub, there for the taking, impossible to resist. I decided to try my hand at making a batch at home because apparently I’m a total masochist. Pray for me.

 photo IMG_1293_zps277a4129.jpg

Use a wide, shallow, large mouthed jar or somewhat equal sized Tupperware container for this. Slice feta into a few slabs and place in jar, along with garlic cloves, rosemary sprigs and ½ of peppercorns. Pour olive oil over and add an additional clove of garlic, another sprig of herbs and remainder of peppercorns. Clamp the lid on and swirl a bit in order to coat everything with oil. Let marinate in fridge for at least 1 or 2 days (I know!). 100% olive oil will always solidify a bit and get cloudy when chilled, so for the best presentation remove jar from fridge before serving and let the temperature rise enough for oil to clarify a bit. If you’re eating this alone, in secret, well, scoop it straight out of the jar standing in front of the fridge with the door ajar. Maybe with some Cape Cod Potato Chips. You won’t find any judgment here.

 photo IMG_1297_zps9930ca59.jpg  photo IMG_1300_zps0d793a73.jpg

Creative Commons License

Thursday, April 3, 2014

something you can count on

 photo IMG_1265_zpsf138b7c7.jpg

I’m quite sure my father may have been born with stew coursing through his veins in lieu of human blood. At least, his dietary choices certainly point to that. Whenever we find ourselves at a pub (which is incidentally where you’ll often find us) if I see beef stew on the menu I can call without a moment’s hesitation what he will order for his meal. On Friday, the seafood restaurant near his house serves fish chowder. So if you ever had trouble tracking him down, you should just head over to the bar at the Union Chowder House in South Weymouth on Fridays at noon. I will bet you $100 he will be tucked into a stool there with a cold Heineken in hand and a steaming bowl of fish chowder under his chin.

 photo IMG_1264_zps758df1d4.jpg

When my parents split up and my dad was in his own apartment, I felt like every single time I would visit for dinner, or ask him what he was cooking, the answer would inevitably be some sort of stew, but more often than not, it was chicken cacciatore. I started to suspect a bit it was either the only thing he knew how to cook, or perhaps his favorite food in the whole universe, even ahead of beef stew or fish chowder. In the end the answer I think is as simple as this: it’s a meal you can count on. Simple to pull together, truly satisfying and given to producing a moderate sized pot of leftovers which are perfect for eating for the next few meals. Regardless of the reasoning behind his dedication for chicken cacciatore, I knew it was something I needed to make for him, as I did just a few Sundays back. This straightforward easy dish is perfect for dinner guests. Relatively inexpensive, easy to pull together and (my favorite) provides you with enough hands off time during cooking to make a martini and relax with your guests before getting it on the table.

 photo IMG_1267_zpsc0f0057a.jpg

CHICKEN CACCIATORE
(from Marcella Hazan)

1 3-4 lb. chicken, cut into pieces
¼ cup flour
4 tbs. canola oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. rosemary
2 cloves garlic
½ cup dry white wine
1 can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
Salt and pepper
2-3 tbs. flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

 photo IMG_1263_zps7b1a52c8.jpg

Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium high heat. Salt and pepper chicken pieces liberally and then dust with flour, shaking the excess off. Brown chicken in batches, about 8 minutes or so per batch, until the skin is crisped but chicken is not cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium and add onion, carrot, celery, red pepper, herbs and garlic to pan; stir constantly to prevent garlic from scorching for about 5-6 minutes, or until onions are golden. Turn heat up to high, add wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape up browned bits from the bottom of the pot, until wine is reduced by half (about 4 minutes). Pour in the juice from tomatoes and then add tomatoes one at a time, crushing each by hand before adding to the pot.

Return chicken to pot, reduce heat to low and cook, mostly covered, for about 30 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Salt and pepper sauce to taste and scatter parsley into pot. Pull chicken from pot with tongs, into a large, shallow bowl; pour sauce over, garnish with a bit more fresh parsley and parmesan cheese, if desired.

 photo IMG_1266_zps70dff9db.jpg

Serve with pasta, rice or garlic mashed potatoes.

EASIEST GARLIC MASHED POTATOES

Approximately 2-3 lbs. russet potatoes, scrubbed clean, peeled and cut into chunks
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
Kosher Salt
Pepper
Butter
Half and half

My go-to mashed potato recipe is not so much a recipe as it is a loose framework. I use about one potato per person, depending on the size of the spuds. Scrub ‘em clean, peel and cut into large chunks. Then cover with cold water in a large stock pot and add the whole cloves of garlic. Bring the pot to boil on high. Once boiling, remove lid and let cook until potatoes are tender when pricked with a paring knife. Drain water, return potatoes and garlic to pot and add a few pats butter, two super generous pinches (I’m talking a thumb and three fingers, potatoes need salt) of kosher salt and a few cranks of black pepper.

 photo IMG_1268_zps08be7ff9.jpg

Splash in about a scant ¼ cup of half and half and mash, with a potato masher; or, use my preferred tool and pulse with an immersion blender. If the consistency is too dry, add another pat of butter and another splash of half and half. Taste and adjust butter/ salt/ pepper. Adding whole cloves of garlic at the onset of cooking gives it a mellow, delicious flavor throughout and using your instincts will get you the consistency of potatoes you desire. I like mine almost whipped, but some people prefer them a little chunkier and drier. Who am I to tell a man how to mash his potatoes? There are some subjects you just don’t butt into.

 photo IMG_1269_zpsf8fbe97d.jpg

Creative Commons License

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

from the inside out

 photo IMG_1261_zps9a6b0132.jpg

Well it might be March but it still feels like winter in a major way. And it seems as though right around this time every year, I get a stronger-than-usual hankering for coconut. At least it certainly appears that way from this post from last March. Maybe it’s because I long for warmth, even if I can only get it by way of sense of smell only. Or maybe housing a bunch of coconut somehow feels to me like I’m eating warm weather. Even if the warmth has to work from the inside out.

 photo IMG_1262_zps85860385.jpg

I was aiming to make up a quick batch of granola, but the end result of this was a little short on cluster-ness and felt more like a snack mix than a granola. Hence, I changed the title real quick and no harm is done. Having made this up, then tested a batch, I did amend the recipe you see here just a little bit. If you would rather end up with something more akin to granola at the end, I would suggest adding about ½ cup of applesauce to the wet ingredients. I’ve had a lot of success using that for granola making in the past. This snack mix is super healthy, but calorie dense, so if you’re watching what you eat, portion it out (I’m talking to myself in case you can’t pick up on that. It’s not you, it’s me). If you’re not watching what you eat, spoon it on top of coconut sorbet and top with chocolate sauce. And then watch me be slightly jealous of you.

COCONUT CASHEW SNACK MIX 

1 ½ cups rolled oats
1 cup cashew pieces
¾ cup raw almonds, chopped
½ cup pepitas
¼ cup sesame seeds
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ cup coconut oil
4 tbs. honey
Pinch salt
Flaked roasted coconut chips* or unsweetened coconut flakes

Optional add ins: golden raisins, craisins, chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients including cinnamon in a large bowl. In a small saucepan over low heat melt coconut oil to liquefy. Add honey and vanilla and stir together well to coat. Fold in coconut and sprinkle pinch of salt over. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silpat pan and scatter granola in an even layer. Bake for 1- 1 ½ hours, until toasty and golden brown, stirring lightly and rotating the pan every 15-20 minutes.

Serve over Greek yogurt with a dollop of peanut or cashew butter and a drizzle of honey; or with a splash of almond milk and some bright red berries. Tastes like a tropical breakfast even though it’s STILL minus 11 out there. Heck, at least we’re getting more daylight. One thing at a time Northerners, we’re only allowed one good thing at a time.

 photo IMG_1260_zps2270de1d.jpg

*if using coconut ‘chips’ that have already been roasted, toss them in after baking the rest of the granola. I did not and the coconut in mine ended up a little too toasted and gritty for my liking (the kitchen smelled like heaven though).

Creative Commons License

Thursday, February 27, 2014

the mother of invention

 photo IMG_1251_zps1b43786e.jpg

Sorry for the back to back sweet potatoes, but as the saying goes “necessity is the mother of invention” and seeing as a) I am on a tight budget until tomorrow; b) I don’t feel like going to the store; and c) I had a bunch of sweet potatoes, well, necessity: meet your mother. She’s a sweet potato disguised as a fried chickpea fritter and she’s fortunately not as deceptive and sinister as that sounds.

 photo IMG_1236_zpsd343e82c.jpg

I pinned this recipe months ago. It is from the blog 101 Cookbooks, which in addition to being visually stunning, is packed with healthy- yet mouthwatering recipes that I always find myself drooling over. These little toasty nuggets of bright orange sweet potato are NOT like your regular falafel. They are not super crunchy and they have that little bit of chew that sweet potato fries often have. So if you’re not into that, I won’t be offended, you can leave now. BUT, if you’re a big fan of sweet potatoes (and I obviously am) these will really hit the spot.

 photo IMG_1239_zpsa3056838.jpg

Now, obviously, you could use these interchangeably with regular falafel. Let’s say in a warm pita combined with tahini sauce, hummus and veggies. Since I don’t have any pita bread and I don’t see any materializing in my future (see reasons a-c above), I am thinking that tonight for dinner, we’ll have these in a bowl, of sorts. Alongside some whole wheat cous cous, garlicky roasted kale and broccoli topped with a scoop of hummus. Then I’m going to garnish the whole thing with some hot sauce and a wedge of lemon for squeezing over. Aaanddd…now I want dinner.

 photo IMG_1241_zps18110bb0.jpg

BAKED SWEET POTATO FALAFEL
From 101 Cookbooks

1 large sweet potato
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
1 small clove garlic, minced
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
Scant ½ cup chickpea flour*
Olive oil
Sesame seeds
Salt and pepper

 photo IMG_1243_zps9db86aaf.jpg

Preheat oven to 425. Stab potato a few times with a fork and let roast until tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let potato cool, then peel and transfer to a large bowl.

 photo IMG_1244_zpsf0d6f561.jpg

Add cumin, coriander, garlic, cilantro, lemon juice and chickpea flour to bowl. Mash together well with a fork, until smooth. Season generously with salt and pepper and drizzle in a tiny splash of olive oil. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge to chill for one hour.

 photo IMG_1245_zps3995d5ef.jpg

Heat oven to 400. Using two spoons, scoop falafel mix out onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. I also found the ‘dough’ was pliable enough to just be scooped and rounded with my hands, but it probably depends on how cool it is. I halved the original recipe and ended up with about one dozen falafel. Generously sprinkle the tops of your falafel with sesame seeds and a pinch of salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes until browned on the bottoms. Serve warm.

 photo IMG_1248_zps5320eb34.jpg

*what with the whole gluten free thing going strong, alternative flours are in conventional grocery stores more and more these days; but I’m fairly certain I bought my chickpea flour at the health food store. If you can’t find it in your local grocer, try there, or hit up Bob’s Red Mill online. That’s the brand I use.

 photo IMG_1249_zps201e051c.jpg

Creative Commons License

Thursday, February 20, 2014

side to side

  photo IMG_1225_zpsadd8e22a.jpg

When Paul and I lived with my aunt and uncle this summer while we were waiting to close on our house, we quickly adapted to their household lifestyle. We realized after nights one, two and three that these folks ate dinner. A proper dinner, seated together, with conversation (and usually wine) every single night. Even if we didn’t get to the table until 9 p.m. As you can imagine, we were super into it. I mean, you know, a nice well rounded meal every evening along with some good conversation can really hit the reset button on your day. It was a recalibration of sorts, with side dishes (and usually rolls!)

 photo IMG_1211_zpsafdf2348.jpg

My favorite thing about Eric and Linda’s dinner ritual was this: the Kluz family meal time did not stray from the protein/vegetable/starch trifecta. Not once. Coming from our house where we often have say, a pizza and a handful of wasabi peas, or 8 varieties of vegetables folded into taco shells, this return to the classic meal format was seriously a real treat. I also realized that it just works. It’s easy and it’s GOOD. Not that I don’t like adventurous meal planning. We all know that. I mean you’re talking to a woman who spent all of my afternoon yesterday mentally composing what kind of tacos I would make for dinner. Some days you just don’t have time for that. Bake some chicken thighs, slowly wilt a green vegetable and mash the crap out of a starch. Don’t over think it. Because at the end of it all, the most important thing is sitting down together and enjoying the meal. These two side dishes are my absolute favorite right now. They’re both so easy it hurts, very healthy and all you have to do is add a protein of your choice. How easy is that?

 photo IMG_1217_zps460a5a26.jpg

BRAISED KALE with GOLDEN RAISINS, 
PINE NUTS and SHAVED PARMESAN 

1 bunch kale
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ cups chicken or vegetable stock (approx.)
Juice from ½ lemon ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
¼ golden raisins
Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

 photo IMG_1216_zps116e23ea.jpg

Let's just address the fact that kale is really having a moment right now. It's also, in my opinion, kind of gross raw. I love, love, love it braised or gently roasted, though. It feels less like a punishment and more like a nourishment. This recipe serves 2, if you're cooking for a crowd keep in mind kale wilts down substantially, you want to purchase about one bunch per 2 people. To prep the kale: tear leaves off of their thick stems by holding it at the root end and ripping up, with gentle force. Then, rip the leaves into smaller pieces and wash thoroughly by soaking in cold water, draining once, soaking again and either giving it a spin in a salad spinner or towel drying a bit.

 photo IMG_1219_zps5d133733.jpg

In a braising pan or Dutch oven (i.e., something that works on the stove top, with a lid that fits) heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for about a half a minute, until fragrant. Add kale and stir together, then pour in the chicken stock until it comes just about an inch up the side of the pan. Clamp the lid on and let the kale braise for about 12-15 minutes, lifting the lid and stirring about once or twice. While the kale braises, toast the pine nuts over low heat in a non-stick pan, squeeze and strain your lemon juice and measure out the raisins.

 photo IMG_1228_zps4f8947cc.jpg

Raise the lid and add lemon juice and golden raisins. Return the lid and let cook another 2-3 minutes, until the kale is quite wilted and cooked down. Remove the lid and let cook another minute or two to allow most of the residual cooking liquid to evaporate. Remove from pan and scatter pine nuts over, then use a vegetable peeler to shave parmesan on top. Serve immediately.

 photo IMG_1212_zps7121c2b4.jpg

MASHED SWEET POTATOES 
with BUTTER and COCONUT OIL 

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into large chunks
½ tsp. coconut oil
½ tsp. butter
Kosher salt
Black pepper

 photo IMG_1213_zps8588ac11.jpg

In a stock pot or sauce pan, cover potato completely with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove lid and let cook until potatoes are completely tender when pricked with a knife. Remove from heat, strain off water and return potatoes to pot. Add coconut oil, butter, a generous pinch of salt and a few cranks of pepper. Equal parts butter and coconut oil, plus the right amount of salt make these potatoes taste creamy, a bit tropical and sweetly decadent. I am legitimately obsessed. I want to turn these into pancakes and falafels and pretty much anything else where they might fit.

 photo IMG_1221_zps20cb64bd.jpg

Use a potato masher or pulse with an immersion blender until smooth. Serve immediately with another small sprinkle of salt and pepper.

 photo IMG_1223_zps283c1178.jpg

Creative Commons License

Thursday, February 6, 2014

more than words

 photo IMG_1191_zps825dbdbe.jpg

If you have been here before and you’re paying attention, it should come as no surprise that I’m moderately obsessed with lentils. This winter, the obsession has been elevated to something worth being concerned about thanks, in whole, to this lentil salad. I had this salad for the first time at a baby shower/brunch for one of my main ladies back in early November. I then spent the entire ride back from New York to Boston and the next three subsequent conversations with my boss trying to reverse engineer its exact components. It was that good.

 photo IMG_1173_zpscdb305b8.jpg

The brunch was held at Public on Elizabeth Street and we had a choice from a fixed menu of French toast, a few tasty egg dishes, or this lentil salad. I chose the lentil salad without much hesitation since I don’t mess with sweet breakfast foods and the egg dishes weren’t jumping out at me. Later, seeing plate after plate of savory eggs being laid down in front of my dining companions I was momentarily seized with regret: “what was I thinking! Lentil salad for breakfast?!” Thankfully this cloud of doubt was eradicated the moment I scooped a forkful into my mouth. My friend Sandra and I took a pause in our conversation, locked eyes and murmured through full mouths something along the lines of “WHOA- good salad” and "mmm srsslyreallygoodsalad" Now, it takes a special kind of salad to get two college girlfriends that don’t see each other often to shut their yaps and stop talking for a moment. This is particularly that kind of salad.

 photo IMG_1170_zpsd9271a91.jpg

HERBED FRENCH LENTIL, GREEN BEAN and AVOCADO SALAD 
with POMEGRANATE MOLASSES VINAIGRETTE

1 cup French lentils, cooked til al dente and drained
Small bunch green beans, trimmed and blanched
½ cup toasted pecans or walnuts
½ avocado, peeled and diced
5-6 chives, finely minced
Leaves from one sprig tarragon, minced
Salt
Pepper

POMEGRANATE MOLASSES VINAIGRETTE 

½ cup avocado oil*
1 tbs. pomegranate molasses*
½ shallot, minced
Juice from ½ lemon
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey
Pinch sugar
Salt and pepper

*avocado oil can be tough to find, but it makes this dressing out-of-control good, so seek it out if you can (you can sub extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil). You can find it at most health food stores and probably Whole Foods; it's usually about $6 and is great for dressings and roasting vegetables. As for pomegranate molasses, most well stocked grocery stores will carry this (near the regular molasses) as well as any Middle Eastern food markets.

 photo IMG_1172_zps00116674.jpg

Bring lentils to simmer in a medium-sized sauce pan (You can use water or vegetable stock to cook them, both work equally well). Let simmer about 15 minutes and then begin checking the lentils for doneness. They should be cooked, not crunchy, but still have just a touch of bite to them. Drain and rinse with cold water, set aside. Blanch green beans for approximately 2-3 minutes in boiling water, and then drop them into a bowl filled with ice water in order to stop the cooking and retain a nice bright green color.

 photo IMG_1183_zps797105e6.jpg

Combine lentils, green beans, avocado, herbs and nuts in a bowl. If you have an immersion blender, use it to make the dressing by combining all ingredients in a wide mouthed mug or jar and then pulsing until completely combined. If you do not have an immersion blender, combine all dressing ingredients in a blender and pulse to combine completely. Taste the dressing and adjust if it needs more seasoning. Pomegranate molasses is super tangy, so it may benefit from a touch more sugar or honey and a little more salt and pepper. Dress the salad with a drizzle of dressing and serve warm or at room temperature.

 photo IMG_1184_zps64976c70.jpg

This is a delicious, hearty side dish with poached fish, or grilled chicken breasts. You will have extra dressing, try using it on mixed greens with roasted Brussels sprouts and butternut squash- it works perfectly.

 photo IMG_1195_zps83ab877e.jpg

Creative Commons License

 
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.